Tuesday, January 29, 2008
“Orange juice, please.”
You can always spot the weird ones. The subtle, anxious shifting, the hurried breathing, the suspicious glances thrown about the premises—these are the odd traveler's textbook traits. A man sitting across the aisle to my left on a recent flight from Amsterdam to New York was the innovative panoply of strange. He kept on his overcoat, gloves, and winter hat for the entire flight. Twice during the trip, he retrieved his handbag from the overhead bin, sat down, and hugged the luggage against his body. After sufficiently cuddling his valise, he stowed it back overhead. Middle aged, with a receding hairline’s nascent creeping, and pockmarked leathery skin, this man—of ambiguous nationality—had my attention.
The drink cart locked its wheels at our seats. The flight attendant leaned over and asked him what he wanted.
“Orange juice, please,” he requested, in an obscure accent.
“Right away,” she sang, and squeezed the last of her juice box into a plastic cup, placing it on the tray table before him.
He raised the glass to his nose and inhaled greedily. I wasn’t, and am still not, aware of any culture that captures the aroma of fruit juice before drinking it. Still, breathing orange juice vapors is not the worst offense. But I realized he hadn't smelled the orange juice—he snorted it up his nose, then breathed it out all over his mouth, chin, coat, and shirt. Then, with the juice dribbling down his face, he poured a tiny sip into his mouth. Over and over, until the cup was empty, he loaded his nostrils with citrus, super soaked himself, and then drank.
I quickly accepted that this man could be anything—a serial killer, a Nobel Prize winner, a ghost, Barry Bonds. I was pretty sure he saw me staring, and since I didn’t want to be too disemboweled to fill out my customs card, I made nice. I threw him an understanding smile, as if to say, “It's cool. I snort V8.” I made extra room in the aisle when he stood. When the flight attendant clicked the meal cart next to us and offered me pasta or chicken, I made a show of elaborately pointing at the juice snorter, and demanded, loudly and selflessly, that he eat first. She, and he, obliged.
I tried, vainly, to spy the cover of his passport (or even the color) when he completed his customs declaration form. However, he hid the card behind a mountain of clothing, luggage, and assorted tray table garbage, secretively penning his information.
This is the type of person, I recall thinking, who I didn’t want to near me at passport control or next to me at baggage claim. Thankfully, I never saw him again after we de-planed. But I didn’t forget him—I went home and Googled “snorting orange juice,” and most of the results read like this, the third one down:
Link heading: “Crushing & snorting; viagra, cialis, or levitra-faster acting, any…”
Description: “If you want it to work faster. Take the powder you were intending on snorting and put it on a drink. (Tang, Orange Juice) Stir well and drink.”
Another was this, the fifth search result:
Link heading: “Methadone pills and snorting”
Description: “square shaped. Big fuckers. They are made to put into orange juice, or possibly sub-lingual (under the toungue [sic]).”
Did our mystery traveler have ED? Heroin withdrawal? I suppose we’ll never know. Was he not cuddling his suitcase, but rather sneaking pills? Let's assume that, yes, he was an erectilely dysfunctional, heroin-addicted goon from an undisclosed location, snorting his orange-juice-and-pills concoction like so many lines of cocaine.
Somehow, that makes more sense than anything else.
Stay Soft, Juice Snorter